What Is True “Success”?

Word of the Day


The world’s “successful” people eat, sleep, breathe, live and move with their one pursuit in life in the forefront of their minds. Absolutely everything that they do is directed at their pursuit of “success”. Their measure of “success” is their bank accounts, their investments, their holdings, their homes, their cars, their clothes, their memberships in “élite” clubs–in other words, their “success” is measured by the almighty dollar bill.

These folks walk into any establishment and lay down their American Express card, or whichever prestigious card is in vogue then, and walk out with whatever it is that may be their appetite at the time. Price is no consideration. They will pay far more for the prestige that they gain by their purchase than they will for the product. This purchase is just more of their bragging rights to their “success”.

In the American Christian world today, the measure of “success” is the size of the membership, the seating capacity of the sanctuary, of the number of TV programs they sponsor, the number of countries their “ministry” reaches, the many ways that they “attract” people–again, their measure of “success” is the dollar bill, how much attention they have brought to themselves.

The Joel and Victoria Osteen’s, the Rick Warren’s, the Benny Hinn’s, the Robert Shuler’s, the Marilyn Hickey’s–these and their ilk gain the attention of the world by their vast “empire” of parishioners, their TV “ministries”, their ability to raise money, their “popular” message, etc. These are the ones who are invited to appear on the major news programs, all the “self-help” TV shows and whose names are published by the major popular magazines of the day. It is their advice that the world rushes to  with bated breaths. It is their “latest” books, their “latest” CD or DVD that is the rage of the day.

Needless to say, it is also their bank accounts that are increasing with each appearance, each book, each CD or DVD. And because their bank accounts, their investments and their “worth” are all increasing, they must be Christendom’s greatest advocate and sought-for speaker.

This world is filled with “con artists” whose only goal in life is finding gullible people. Honor, honesty, truth and integrity are not their greatest suits in life. Their approach to life and people is “get all I can, can all I get and sit on the lid”. And because of that, whether in politics, business or Christendom, the emphasis is on “self”, “I, me and mine”. What it does to you is of no concern whatsoever.

So, what is “success”? How do you measure “success” if not by results? If the payday is not the measure, then what is? What could be the measure if it’s not the payday? How can it be measured in any other way than the visible and tangible results? Or, IS there any other way to measure it?

“Well done, thou good and FAITHFUL servant: thou hast been FAITHFUL over a FEW things…”(Matt.25:21). In this parable of the servants who were given some money to manage in the absence of their master(Matt.25:14-30), Jesus never once suggested that the judgment was based on the gains of the servants, but on the faithfulness of these servants. It was because of their FAITHFULNESS that the master commended and rewarded them.

The world, including Christendom, drools over “great accomplishments”, great drive, steadfast resolve in proving oneself, in massive buildings, in proven investments and earnings; but God praises simple faithfulness. He never once suggested that judgment would be based on sermons preached, lessons taught, souls being won, great demonstrations of faith, worldly recognition and reward. But He did, and does, make great emphasis on simple faithfulness.

The American landscape is dotted with massive monuments that we claim show the “glory of God”(which, in reality, are nothing but monuments to men) and our religious news, our religious bookstores, our religious TV broadcasts, all highlight and praise these great movements. These are held up as prime examples of “service to God”. What great faith these men and women are displaying for the world! How these are exalted as wonderful examples of “God’s servants”! And how their stories are reported time and time again, and how the younger generation of “vocational” servants are urged to be mentored by these charlatans.

May I ask something rather foolish here? Are we saying that the measure of success in the Kingdom of God is the same as the world’s measure? If so, what about those servants around the world, in the remotest of villages, those whose names are not recognized by any other than their immediate families and villagers, but they suffer great persecution for their faith, can we say that these are not successful? They don’t have access to any money at all. In fact many of them have real trouble obtaining the sustenance needed for each day’s needs. Great buildings, great congregations, great meetings–none of these are available to them at all. So, are they failures simply because of where they live?

Or is it possible that THEY are the successful ones in the Kingdom of God? Is it possible that they are the ones who will really hear those much-desired words from the Lord, “Well done, thou good and FAITHFUL servant…”?

May I draw your attention to a passage of Scripture that is shunned in the church today? In Hebrews, chapter eleven, the “faith” chapter of the Bible, we find the list of outstanding men and women of faith who had great exploits for God, how they, by faith, overcame and defeated their generation, how they became outstanding men and women of God in their day. It is these we hear the sermons about, whose lives are spotlighted in our Sunday School and Bible Study lessons.

But beginning in verse thirty-six of that chapter, we find the stories of the “others”. I’m begging you notice, not one of their names is recorded. They failed according to all worldly standards in their lives. They were  mocked, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, sawn asunder, slain with the sword, lived in deserts, in mountains, in caves–the nobodies of their day. But notice two things about these “others”–they “obtained a good report through faith…”, and these are the only ones in this chapter that Scripture records that “…the world was not worthy…”(v.38).

So, I must ask myself, who are the successful in the Kingdom of God, those whose exploits turn us green with envy, or the “others” whose names are not recorded, who the world scorned, who the world killed, who were the rejects of the day? Who do I want to emulate in my life? Do I want to be an Abraham, an Isaac, a Moses, who the world races to(I guess it would be nice to be one of those), or do I want to be one of the “others”, whose name only God knows?

About Franklin Pearce

Like you, I am still struggling in my walk with God. Like you, I have not arrived. So, please respond with your comments, pro or con. All I ask is that no vulgarity, shouting down, no put-downs be used. I am a Christian and I trust that, if you are reading this blog, you are also. This blog is written by a Christian, for Christians, and so, please, let's keep all comments in that vein. In fact, this is how we all learn. So, thank you for reading this blog, and thank you for responding, again, pro or con.
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